A Torres Strait Islander who campaigns 20 hours a week for Indigenous Voice in Parliament on top of his full-time job insists sentiment on the ground defies opinion polls predicting a No victory.
Gav Harris, who lives in Sydney’s west, is desperately hoping Australians will support putting the proposed Indigenous consultative body into the constitution in the October 14 referendum.
Polls predict a crushing defeat, the latest Newspoll has support of just 36 percent and Resolve has support of 43 percent, but Gav thinks it is still too early to say who will win.
Gav says many voters are undecided or indifferent and “there is much more support than negative comments.”
The referendum turned Gav’s life upside down. He volunteers up to 20 hours a week in addition to his full-time job and family commitments.
It’s an exhausting task, but one that, for Gav, is absolutely necessary.
“It’s about waking up after the referendum, winning or losing, and knowing you’ve done everything you can,” he told Daily Mail Australia.
“When I ask myself, “Could you have done better?” », “Have you done enough? “, I can know that I did everything I could.
Whatever the outcome of the Indigenous Voice in Parliament on October 14, Gav Harris will sleep well that night
The Torres Strait Islander who now lives in Sydney’s west is desperately hoping Australians will stand up for First Nations people in the election.
Gav said a no vote would be a devastating result for him and Australia, but his conscience would be clear knowing he did everything he could.
The grandfather said a vote would likely make very little difference to his personal situation, but could be a big thing for the lives of his grandchildren, nieces and nephews in the future.
The official Yes23 campaign has 37,000 volunteers across the country. They make drop-offs at mailboxes, talk to commuters at train stations and go door-to-door.
Gav is focusing on his patch of western Sydney – campaigning in areas including Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Parramatta and Westmead.
He sets his alarm for 5 a.m. each day to have a few hours before he has to go to work.
Some days he comes home after work.
He likes to stay home to cook dinner if possible, but his family understands his commitment to the referendum.
They don’t blame him if he stays stuck on the road longer than expected.
“It’s just one of those things, we had a family reunion before all this escalated… It’s important to know when it’s time to rest, but it’s only for so long limited and we all know it.”
In Sydney’s west, Gav (pictured in yellow next to Federal Parramatta MP Andrew Charlton) noticed a lot of enthusiasm for the proposal.
Right now, The Voice is poised to be defeated in every state except Tasmania.
This is not to say that Gav misses important moments. He has mastered the art of juggling his commitments.
“My granddaughter’s baptism took place last weekend. I didn’t miss it, but I could still have conversations about the referendum, I could still put letters in the mailbox in the morning and evening,” he said.
To avoid completely burning out, Gav goes to bed strictly at 10 p.m.
Support for The Voice is plummeting in official polls.
Just over a third of Australians – 36 per cent – say they will vote Yes to the Voice in Parliament, according to the Newspoll survey of 1,239 voters.
This is a drop of two points in the last three weeks – the lowest level ever recorded for the beleaguered Yes campaign.
At the same time, opposition to the historic referendum increased slightly to 56 percent with less than three weeks until polling day.
Gav said a no vote would be a devastating outcome for him and Australia, but his conscience would be clear knowing he did everything he could for his community.
The swing to no is seen across most age groups and demographics. The biggest change is among women and younger voters who were previously The Voice’s strongest supporters.
But Gav says that doesn’t reflect the conversations he and his fellow volunteers are having on the ground.
In western Sydney, Gav noticed a lot of enthusiasm for the proposal.
“People will say they are already voting yes, or they will smile, they will honk from their car.” I would say there is a lot more support than negative comments,” he said.
But another common reaction is simply confusion or lack of interest.
“The number of undecided votes remains enormous,” he said. “People are still disengaged.”
These are the people the Yes23 campaign sees as the key to turning the tide.
Although cost of living pressures and other factors remain at the forefront of everyday Australians’ minds, as the referendum date approaches, people will inevitably start to ask more questions.
Gav accepts the referendum and the proposal could have been better managed within Canberra to better reassure the community
“And it’s my job to have the answers and get this message out,” Gav says.
“When it comes to Indigenous affairs, The Voice is a real turning point for this country. This is a great moment for Australia.
“You will receive consistent advice on programs, spending will be targeted. This will save money in the long run.
But Gav accepts the referendum and the proposal could have been better managed to better reassure the community.
He criticized the Coalition for failing to offer bipartisan support for Voice, pointing out that it was the National Liberal government that commissioned the Calma-Langton report, which offers an explanation of how Voice could work in practice.
“The initial spirit of The Voice was a little deflated… It definitely could have been handled better, so it’s a little disappointing.”